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Compliance, chips and vaccine ‘top priority‘ for Samsung’s Lee

Aug. 17, 2021 - 16:34 By Song Su-hyun
Lee Jae-yong (Yonhap)

Samsung Group’s de facto chief Lee Jae-yong is going full speed ahead after returning to the office Tuesday, tending to tasks waiting for his attention at Samsung Electronics.

On Tuesday, the first working day since his release from jail Friday, the Samsung vice chairman reported to his office at Samsung’s headquarters in Seocho, southern Seoul, early in the morning.

Of all the items on his agenda, three appear to be of top priority: compliance, chips and vaccine.

It was unclear whether Lee attended a monthly meeting of the external committee on Samsung’s compliance issues that was set at 2 p.m. at the Secho headquarters.

While in jail, Lee vowed to continue supporting the committee’s activities, asking the committee members, including former Chief Justice Kim Ji-hyung to take responsibility.

Since the lack of compliance is what had put Lee behind bars, there are expectations that the Samsung chief would take action to show his determination on sticking to the rules.

In May 2020, Lee apologized to the public saying, “Samsung will never do things that violate laws, or rely on expedients.”

“Restoring trust seems to be an urgent issue for Samsung and Lee,” said an industry insider who commented on expectations for Lee’s future moves.

Sources said Lee had been busy catching up on major business affairs in the past few days.

On Friday, he headed to the head office right after being released from prison to meet with top executives of the electronics unit.

Some sources speculated that he could have met with Samsung’s chief executive officers including Kim Ki-nam who leads the semiconductor business.

Among many other things, what needs Lee’s immediate attention is the semiconductor business’ plan to build a new foundry plant in the US.

Some news reports said Lee was briefed on the plan even during the weekend. He also held teleconferences with foreign business partners.

Lee’s release would also speed up Samsung SDI’s plan to build an electric vehicle plant in the US. The battery affiliate is preparing for an EV production facility in Illinois, but definitely needs the vice chairman’s approval.

“Since he was released on the condition of keeping the chip business and securing vaccines, Lee would get back to work and focus on the tasks,” said a high-ranking official at Samsung.

Regarding vaccines, the Samsung chief is expected to bring in COVID-19 vaccines by harnessing his global network.

Samsung’s pharmaceutical affiliate Samsung Biologics is set to fill and finish more than 100 million doses of US drugmaker Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at the end of this month.

Amid the delayed delivery of Moderna’s vaccine to Korea, Lee could make efforts to help the government secure additional doses, an official who is familiar with the matter told The Korea Herald.

”The vice chairman could utilize his human network to reach the Moderna management to support the government’s supply plan, or hasten the fill-and-finish work at Samsung Biologics’ plant,” the official said.